Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It's a sin...

It's a sin to pick a story before it's ripe. A deadline is no excuse for not taking time to write well.

Monday, January 30, 2017

After a fashion...

Wildflour, our village baker, has been closed for renovations most of January. Meanwhile, we're getting along after our own fashion. I'm having some practice at a skill recently neglected. Above, wholewheat and corn flour. Our flour is not as fresh as Wildflour's, who grind their own every morning, but it's pretty good, organic and non-GMO. We order ours from Great River Milling Company.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Take your turn...

Lately, I've been experiencing my first engagement with a collaborative fiction project. It is a whole different world than writing alone. Somewhat like playing in a jazz group. You get a turn now and then to make your own little run, but the soul is in the blend. It's more about listening than saying your piece.

In the process, you learn as much as you write.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The hardest thing...

I’m writing today. If I write every day, someday I might have written a whole novel. Who knows? But today, I will be content, after revisions and deletions, to produce one sound page in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The hardest thing and the most necessary thing for a fiction writer to do is to be present and immersed in the work at hand. You don’t cross a creek in tomorrow’s water. You don’t walk home in yesterday’s weather. The step you take now sustains your journey.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Nothing is...

Nothing is certain but where we are.
All the life we have to live begins right here.
It is enough if we can see a place to start.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Don't mind...

Don't mind the fog,
Just a big lie,
Conceals but can't erase;
Our town is still there
from end to end, the crowds
as great or small
as could we see them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Morning after...

The morning after
the end of the world,
the sun rises yet again;
we watch the new Earth
gather herself and rise
from foggy dark.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Reading the season...

Seasons turn on the least of signs. We need to pay attention in order to stay in the flow. Beginnings emerge from endings before we've grasped the change.

So I'm trying to see what will be rising out of what was. I've ordered onion sets, sweet and red, and seed to sow for transplants. I can taste those purple tomatoes already.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

...came to stay.

We came to the mountain
to get close to the land.
We stayed to live close
to the sky.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Just who did this thing?

The current crop of pundits seem mostly agreed that Donald Trump has ridden into the presidency of the U. S. A. on a wave of populism. I'm not expert enough to disprove that thesis but I don't entirely believe it.

Just about all of the Trump voters I know personally are not poor, or displaced middle class folks, but are old white people, sitting on their little piles of money, clinging fearfully to their remnants of privilege. They don't want change, but unchange. They want to turn our country back to a time when they felt in control of their lives.

Admittedly, my sampling may be skewed, as being an old white person myself, that is the circle I mostly travel in, but I must admit some disappointment in my generation. I never imagined we were quite so selfish. I thought we had more courage than that.

And I'm very afraid that we have just sold our grandchildren's future down the river.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The things we do...

My friend came by to visit, after weeks afar. When I had interrogated him about his travels, we fell into a silence. That is one of the things I love about him, the ability to embrace quiet company and not be uneased by the space between words.

Finally, "Well, what have you been doing other than writing?" The question caught me by surprise. We are both writers. I expected more shop talk. I had to think for a bit to dredge up some unauthorly activities to report.

Of course, I do other things than write stuff. I took off a whole week from scribbling to put together a new website for the Main Muse. She has her own work to do. Here it is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Not many who've read Laurel Falls took notice of the dedication at the front, but a few did and asked, "Who is this Kate who remembers it all?"

Well, Readers, here's my daughter, Kate. I could take it all back but her.


Monday, January 16, 2017

...the first Rule

Lots of travelers on our road these days and nights. Pilgrims, refugees, dissenters and the persecuted. Keep your light on for them. In such uncertain times, hospitality is become the Koinonia's first Rule.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

...to have and to be.

If any are to have hope 
during the hard times upon us now, 
some of us will have to be hope.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

On the road...

It's a cold and winding road we're traveling now, Pilgrim.
On your lonely way through that long night,
Watch for places where the light's still on.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Black is the Color...

Finally, I finished my story about Starblossom Dorn and Jonathan Dark. I screwed up my courage and read it to the Main Muse. "Should I submit this?" I asked her. "Give me your honest opinion."

"You really want an honest opinion?" She said.

"Yes, I do," I answered, with mild apprehension.

"Why don't you call it Dark is the Color, then. It's like one of those Appalachian ballads where everybody dies unhappily ever after."

Well, it is. She even got the right song. I'll tinker with it a bit more, just for fun, and send it out.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

They can have it...

I still have a president for a few days. 
My country has already been sold off to the highest bidder. 
Well, they can have it. 
Give me Jesus.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Bunny got run over in the night. Jane Ella, Simon and I found him when we went out for our evening walk. Bunny was here when we moved up the mountain last winter. We shared our garden greens with him all year. Most lately, he's been making do with shallot tops and endive, as that's about all we have to offer in this season.

Maybe Bunny got careless. Or maybe he was just old and slow. They say there's two kinds of bunnies, the fast ones and the dead ones. We will miss Bunny, though. I wish he'd been faster, or at least more careful.

I got him out of the road before he was smeared on the pavement, and left him under the old hemlock to bury at first light. But when I came out next morning, he was gone. I reckon he's turned into a coyote by now. I wonder if I will recognize him should we ever meet again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Murder most foul...

While I was waiting on the snow last week, I read my neighbor Corinne's mystery novel, and worked on my own whodunit. Never quite realized, until I started my own, how close crime fiction is to comedy. Both operate in the realm of the preposterous.

So about half-way to a draft at this point. I think I know what vile deed's been done and what hasn't. The villain has changed faces one more time. There are enough false clues embedded in the narrative to mislead even a precocious reader (they misled the author for a while).

My first three novels, I took perhaps more seriously than I needed to. This one, so far, has been a lark. No axes to grind, no lofty ideals to uphold, no epic characters, just a romping story. I want it to be well-written as any, of course; but mainly I want it to be as much of a fun surprise for the reader as it is turning out to be for me.

Monday, January 9, 2017


How can we be so careful of the bread and wine on the altar and so careless toward Christ in our neighbor, who breathes and bleeds like us?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The more things change...

It is interesting to be alive at a moment when you can see up-close and personal the decline and fall of a civilization. Nothing has changed, or at least humans haven't. We just happen to be on the steepening slide toward the down-hill end of a long and recurrent arc of history.

Small enclaves of something resembling family and compassion will endure here and there, and when the storm is past, will begin to join and make bigger things again.

I live in a little village of about 700 souls in the Southern Appalachians. The town survived the American Civil War because the Yankee detachment sent to occupy (burn) the place decided it was not worth climbing up the mountain while getting shot at.

So our strategy for this latest round of madness is essentially unchanged. Keep our heads down, don't brag too much to strangers, trade close to home, be kind to one another and gentle with fools passing through.

Friday, January 6, 2017

...as you will.

Recently, I read about an experiment in quantum physics (Something I don't begin to understand.), which supposedly indicated that the nature of a particle is determined not by the processes it has undergone in the past, but by its state in the future. Perhaps this has no practical meaning on the level where we live our daily lives. Or perhaps this explains why sometimes, if we are lucky, we feel our past life has been edited in our favor (though how would we know?). But it didn't take quantum physics to persuade me that God welcomes us now, seeing us not as we were, but as we will become.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

All it takes...

A little imagination is about all it takes to be a writer. Given access to a competent editor, anyone with at least a tenuous grasp of grammar, who can spell most of the words in their vocabulary, can make up a story.

To be a good writer, though, requires enough humility to listen to your story, and let her take you where she wants to go.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


It is astounding how much of the world you can see, if you have the patience to sit in one place long enough to watch it pass.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

To pray...

Life is prayer.
To pray is to be intimately aware
and open to the Other.
When we are fully alive,
we are ever at prayer.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Untracked time...

Winter is the writer's season. When the short days are wrapped and bound by cold and dark, the inner world rises and expands. That is when the stories most readily show themselves.

Last winter was taken up buying and selling, packing and moving up the mountain and getting settled into our rightful home. Unpacking, exploring, learning the language of a new place, occupied us into spring. I had to scramble to finish the book Editor had assigned me for the year.

Now the long winter stretches out ahead, still and covert as a frozen pond, without compulsive exodus or painful parting or frantic arrival. Untracked time to wait and open for becomings.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Collective Gasp...

Too long since we had a guest blogger on Tales and Wanders. Let us start the new year by making amends. Reg Darling is a friend and mentor, and author of several notable books, among them Hartwell Road and Boondock Politics, which has particular resonance for our present moment in American history.

Following, is Reg's reflection on this turning of the year:

 Photo by Reg Darling

Collective Gasp

In the wake of Donald Trump’s surreal, minority victory, hordes of progressives/liberals are uttering countless variations on the theme, “I don’t feel like this is my country anymore.” And yes, I feel some of that too, even though I also realize that it’s mostly an infantile conflation of raw emotion and reality.

[America is suffering from a collective overdose of simplistic thought.]

Other than a (hopefully) brief flourish of empowerment for bitter fools (giddily violent around its edges), nothing much has truly changed.

In my undergraduate days (late 1960s – early 1970s), the hippie culture in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where I was a student, was composed of many overlapping circles of friends that functioned in a zone somewhere between family and tribe.

[The social barrier between college and town was permeable at its interface with sex, drugs, and art.]

I became happily comfortable amidst a circle of bright, creative, gentle, generous people whom I regarded as a sort of extended family of choice. I felt at ease among them in ways I had never felt before.

[Personal qualities that made me a nerd in high school rendered me sexually attractive amidst the countercultural wildness rolling across the country in waves.]

This sense of empowered belonging played a large role in my ability to transit through some very dark times with my will to live, ability to love, and creative faculties intact.

[We were first wave baby boomers and deep friendship offered warmth and security that had been (to varying degrees) missing from the homes presided over by our depression and war damaged parents. We gave each other the reckless confidence that enabled our dissent.]

During that time and for a few years afterward, as we all wandered off into the post-college world of making a living and a life, I was entwined and entangled in a stormy, on-again-off-again relationship (fraught with mutual infidelities) with a woman who was also a member of my hippie clan.

After that stormy relationship finally completed its long unraveling, there were frequent moments of obvious social awkwardness in encounters with my old friends. I attributed this to various mixtures of circumstance and my perennial social ineptitude.

[Hey, it was inevitable that we would all grow apart. Right?]

When I married outside the tribe, my wife’s beauty blinded most of my old friends to her intellect and her art. Though this caught me by surprise because I thought them more enlightened and less given to commonplace prejudices than that, I still trusted truth to become apparent to open eyes and minds. I tried to be patient because they were my people. Collectively, the facets of their personalities often reflected aspects of the kind of person I was, or at least tried to be.

[I built a new life in an old place—my hometown.]

I was a prolific letter writer and frankly, didn’t give much thought to the lack of response my correspondence mostly received.

[I didn’t keep score.]

Not everyone had a bureaucratic job that made letter writing an inconspicuous way to steal time from high-pressured work.

[I used stolen time to keep my inner wildness from drowning in structured responsibility.]

Gradually, as events and encounters unfolded, and I began to write consciously about my life, I realized that I had, in fact, never been a member of the clan of friends I had regarded as a truer family than blood. I had been kindly humored and tolerated as a true member’s weird boyfriend. By the time this realization became clear, that part of my past was too far gone to merit the sharp pain of heartbreak it might have delivered many years earlier. But the dull ache of deep embarrassment became a part of the background noise of my story, and now, that folly, ache, and embarrassment is weirdly mirrored by my country.

[Nothing has changed, but so too has everything.]

The problem isn’t so much what we have done as who we have been. It never was your country or mine.

[That was a poignant cocktail of naivety and vanity.]

It never will be your country or mine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find your way home.

[Beware of darkness and greedy leaders.]

Give your allegiance to the confluence of your family (blood and/or spirit) and your watershed.

[Be kind to strangers.]

copyright ©2016 Reg Darling